Tea tree oil or melaleuca oil is a clear to very pale golden color essential oil with a fresh camphoraceous odour. It is taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia which is native to the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. The oil is believed to have beneficial cosmetic and medical properties (including antiseptic and antifungal action).
The term "tea tree oil" is somewhat of a misnomer since Melaleuca alternifolia is a paperbark rather than a tea tree (genus Leptospermum). Tea tree oil should also not be confused with tea oil, the sweet seasoning and cooking oil from pressed seeds of the tea plant Camellia sinensis or the tea oil plant Camellia oleifera.
Tea tree oil has been recognized as a potent antiseptic in Australia anecdotally for much longer than there has been scientific evidence. However, recent studies support a role for tea tree oil in skin care and treatment of various ailments.
Tea tree oil is a known antifungal agent, effective in vitro against multiple dermatophytes found on the skin..
In vivo, shampoo with 5% tea tree oil has been shown to be an effective treatment for dandruff due to its ability to treat Malassezia furfur, the most common cause of the condition.
Effectiveness of topical tea tree oil preparations for Candidiasis is supported by their ability to kill Candida in vitro.
In the treatment of moderate acne, topical application of 5% tea tree oil has shown an effect comparable to 5% benzoyl peroxide, albeit with slower onset of action.
Tea tree oil is also effective for treating insect bites, boils and minor wounds.It has also been known to help sooth sunburns, poison ivy, ear infections, and bee stings.
Diluted solutions of tea tree oil are sold as remedies which claim to treat bacterial and fungal infection in pet fish.